Jan 082013

Waxwings on cotoneaster

Waxwings are infrequent visitors to the UK as they only come here when food is scarce in Scandinavia. They are handsome birds and you should consider yourself very lucky if you get to see them. I was lucky at the end of December 2012 when I joined friends ‘twitching’ a Tesco car park where waxwings had been reported. We had no difficulty finding 45 birds sitting boldly in a small birch in the car park. Their unmistakeable russet crest, black eye mask and yellow tail bar were easy to see. They were continually dropping down to feed on the berries of a low cotoneaster hedge, planted all around the car park to improve its appearance. They grabbed berries as fast as they could before nervously flying back up into the tree. Cotoneaster is not a native British plant but it’s flowers are attractive to bees and insects in spring and, in winter, it’s berries are sought out by thrushes, blackbirds and winter visitors such as waxwings. We, and other watchers, stayed for a while to enjoy this bird spectacle, keeping our distance so that the birds could feed. Thankfully they did not appear to be disturbed by us, or any of the to-ings and fro-ings of people and cars. A great sighting, even if it meant standing in Tesco’s car park…Waxwing Just a few days later, in January 2013 we were lucky to see more waxwings and this time we found them ourselves. Again they were in a populated place, Jeskyns Country Park, more busy than usual as it was still the school holidays. Families walked past, often with dogs, but a small flock of about 30 birds sitting together in apple trees, continued to feed and were only driven away later when a small excitable dog ran under their tree. This time they were feeding on fallen apples, staying on the ground only briefly before flying up to the safety of the trees. It was easy to walk past this group, as many people did. However, when we pointed them out to some of the families returning to the car park they were astonished to see such lovely birds so close by.We had a third sighting, two days later, of three waxwings on the Isle of Sheppey – in hawthorns lining a very fast and busy main road.
The waxwings we saw were in busy places in the human environment, near roads, in supermarket car parks, in busy parks, obviously places where there is hedging planted to enhance the landscape. It would be nice to know that there are plenty of natural berry sources in our countryside too, so that waxwings can feed in wild places. It is still so important for landowners to plant hedgerows with native berrying trees such as hawthorns, to help out all birds in winter including our Scandinavian visitors.


 Posted by on 8 January 2013 at 5:28 pm  Tagged with:

  20 Responses to “Waxwings in Kent”

Comments (20)
  1. Finally managed to catch up with the waxwings in Jeskyns Park – I saw about 20 there today feeding on the rose hips near the ‘tree house’. They’re stunning birds and well worth going to see.

  2. I was fortunate to have joined Sally when she saw the waxwings in Jeskyns Park. It was the first time for over a year since I last had a sighting but it was well worth the wait. Well spotted and thank you.

  3. They were still at Jeskyns today. I found them next to the field of Llamas initially, but they flew over my head and I tracked them back to the rose hips in the field next to the tree house. I counted 34.

    • I also went back there today with Maria and after a long trek around most of Jeskyns they eventually arrived in a flock of 34 back at the rose hips field near the tree house as we were heading back to the car park. So Maria got them on her 2013 list and I was ‘off the hook’!

      • That was me sending them over to you from the Llama tree! I also came back to the rose hip field and saw them – surprised we didn’t see you!

  4. Still there 17th pm

  5. 20 of them today by the dog training field

  6. Having seen our 1st flock in Welney Norfolk in December we saw a flock today in Leybourne woods adjacent West Malling bypass feeding on berries with fieldfares, magic!

  7. Saw a flock (probably 10-12) on Thursday in Bradbourne estate, East Malling. Didn’t know what they were at the time, but they were feeding on berries on the shrubs in the hedgerow bordering Bradbourne House.
    Beautiful birds.

  8. I’ve just seen a flock of about 20 waxwings at Leybourne Lakes near the houses furthest from Tesco!

  9. I spotted a flock of 12 waxwings on Kings Hill housing development near West Malling on Saturday 30th March. I didn’t know what they were until I described them to my family friend Iris who had had a flock in her garden in Sevenoaks in February. They were perching in the tall trees then flying down to the bushes in the garden below to eat the berries. They are beautiful birds and I was thrilled to have seen them for the first time.

  10. Saw three beautiful birds last month (around the 21st March) at the school I teach in, in Walderslade nr Chatham. Just did a bit of research to find out what they were as it had intrigued me, and I discover that they were three beautiful waxwings! So beautiful and one of the children in Reception stopped three of his friends to make them take a look. It was fabulous to see the amazement in their eyes.

  11. I had 10 waxwings in my garden in Chalk yesterday, a surprise visitor but very welcome. They were beautiful.

    • Hi Lynsey – your sighting is worth adding to the BTO BirdTracker as a ‘casual sighting’. Looking at my (old) copy of Birds of Kent the latest record for Waxwings was 15 April in 1971. Just shows how late the season is this year!

  12. We have had waxwings visiting our garden in Ashford over the last three weeks we thought they had left last week as we hadn’t seen any but today we had 30+ back again! We have been so lucky to beable to watch them so close.

    • Again, please submit your sightings of Waxwings to BTO BirdTracker as this could be a new Kent record for late leavers. It is easy and fun to do, and helps build a picture of bird sightings around the country.

  13. Just to add- we saw 12 waxwings in the trees by the carpark at Cascades sports centre, Thong Lane on 21st of April!

  14. Saw 10 waxwings in our garden yesterday.

  15. We saw some Waxwings on 4 & 5 Feb in East Malling research station, there were about 30 – 35 sitting in tall trees, first time we’d seen them so looked them up and found these comments from 4 years back.

  16. We have more reports of Waxwings in Kent in January 2017, Christine. If you scroll down on the Home page you can read about those in Northfleet. Yours may be the most recent reports though. I’m not sure if they have been seen elsewhere in February. Well spotted.